CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – In the past week there have been at least two high-speed police pursuits across the Lowcountry. In the days since, many have been asking what procedures are in place to keep drivers and law enforcement safe on the roads while in the thick of a chase. The answer can be tricky.
A high-speed, highly dangerous police chase that started in North Charleston led law enforcement across Charleston County into Berkeley County and back, weaving in and out of traffic before ending on James Island.
This pursuit, like all others, posed a risk to public safety. Officials say they know the risks, and calculate them carefully.
“We understand it’s a dangerous thing to do, we get totally get that,” says Captain David Singletary who oversees the North Charleston Police Department’s office of Professional Standards and Accountability.
From the moment a pursuit begins, law enforcement are taking several factors and risks into consideration while deciding whether or not to pursue the chase. Captain Roger Antonio with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office says those risks are communicated with supervisors.
“The speeds, the current location, the description of the vehicle, the traffic conditions,” says Captain Antonio.
Policies can differ from one department to another and from county to county. Captain Antonio says ultimately the decision to pursue boils done to one factor above all others.
“And one of the most important things [an officer] needs to take into consideration, is whether or not the safety of the public is worth that pursuit,” says Captain Antonio.
Chases are likely to involve several motorists right in the middle of the danger. Captain Singletary says drivers are required by law to get out of the way as quickly and safely as possible.
“We kind of give them grace you know give them some patience you know that type of thing and a lot of motorists don’t know what to do,” says Singletary.
After each pursuit, all information and dashcam video is reviewed by department supervisors to determine the efficiency of the chase and what could be improved upon the next time.
“We review it to make sure everything is in compliance with policy and state law,” says Captain Antonio.
Officers from the North Charleston police department tell me they conduct an after-action report as well, reviewing dashcam after each chase to identify what officers did right and where they can improve. The department’s policies including those on pursuits are posted online.